I HOPE readers had a happy Christmas, and are looking forward to the new year and whatever 2018 may bring.

It’s a time of year when many of us catch up with friends and family and have a break from our usual day-to-day routine.

But for people who are suffering from loneliness, this can be a particularly difficult time of year.

Loneliness is often associated with social isolation, but people can and do feel lonely even when in a relationship or when surrounded by others.

Loneliness affects people of all ages and from all different backgrounds – men, women, older people, carers, refugees and people seeking asylum, disabled people, children, young people and their parents.

Feelings of loneliness affect us all at some point, but being lonely can become a serious problem when it becomes chronic – a day-to-day reality which, over time, can grind us down, affecting our health and wellbeing and damaging our ability to connect with others.

At the time of her terrible murder in June 2016, my friend and former Parliamentary and Oxfam colleague Jo Cox had begun working on a project that was close to her heart – bringing together individuals and organisations who were already working to combat loneliness, and to shine a powerful spotlight on the problem faced by the many, many people who are lonely living in our communities.

She wanted to “turbo-charge” our collective response to loneliness, and inspired by her vision, The Jo Cox Commission on Loneliness – led by a group of 13 charities and businesses co-chaired on a cross-party basis by Rachel Reeves MP and Seema Kennedy MP – has been working for 12 months to respond to the challenge.

The Commission has this month published a report, which is a call to action to government, business and to each and every one of us to do more to tackle loneliness.

It sets out how all of us – as individuals, in our communities, with civil society organisations, businesses, schools, employers and with government – can play our part in taking forward Jo’s vision for a less lonely, more connected world.

Tackling loneliness is a generational challenge. The Commission’s work has sought to start a conversation about how we can ensure that our future is one of connection, kindness and community – not isolation, separation and loneliness.

You can find out more about the Commission’s work and read the report by going to www.jocoxloneliness.org